Stage 4: Pagliarini Makes The Triple!
One, two THREE!
Pagliarini’s Historic Langkawi hat-trick
By Roger St. Pierre
Punching the air and raising a three-fingered victory salute, Brazilian rocket Mendonca Pagliarini made Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi history when he sprinted into Tanah Merah to make it a historic three stage wins in a row. This unique hat-trick marks the 24 year old as a man to beat in the big sprint finishes this season: “It’s beautiful,” he smiled as he celebrated his achievement. Tour followers will remember that Jay Sweet, back in 1996 and Robbie Hunter last year each won three stages too – but not on consecutive days.
“I was planning to have a quiet time today, especially since I’m not a climber and there were two mountains to tackle early on but I was fine over the passes and as we neared the finish my team-mates urged me to get up there for the sprint,” said Pagliarini, adding, “Their motivation was tremendous and they kept shouting at me: ‘Go Paglia, go,” so I went for it!
“They carried me through to half-a-kilometre to go and from then on I gave it everything.” It was, as General Wellington would have said: “A damn close run thing.” Perhaps showing his inexperience a little, the supremely confident Pagliarini threw his arms up in the traditional victory salute a little early and Aussie Graham Brown, his runner-up on the previous two days as well, came within a whisker of snatching victory on the line. It took the judges 10 minutes or more to ponder over the photo finish and make their decision.
The Ceramiche Panaria rider was furious at missing out yet again: “As we slowed down after the finish, he made a motion as if to lean on me and make me swerve. It’s the same thing he did the previous two days. “What’s up? He protested when I beat him on the first day, had another moan yesterday and again accused me of switching him today. “I went up to him to make the peace and shake hands but he wouldn’t. He acted like a sore loser and that’s not good. In this sport you have to be able to accept being beaten, however good you think you are. When you win, you win and when you lose you just have to accept it with good grace.
“I told him we are professionals, not babies, and we should respect each other. It’s not good to have vendettas in the bunch. That’s dangerous and leads to crashes. We are all in this to earn a living and if you fall it can put you out of action for months.”
Talking later, Brown saw it very differently: “He’s ruthless in the sprints and he came up aggressively after the finish and I thought he wanted to start a fight. Then our bikes somehow got tangled up and by the time we straightened them out the whole thing blew over.”
Whatever, we can surely expect some more sprint finish fireworks before Tour end.
Brown is determined to repeat his performance of last year, when he won two stages, while this one race has already made the ever-smiling Pagliarini the most successful rider in Brazilian cycling history and he professes ambitions to emulate the great Italian sprinter roadman Mario Cipollini. Certainly, he already demonstrates the same strength of personality and way with words – and his legs aren’t doing too bad either.
There were other heroes today; not least, World and Commonwealth mountain bike champion Roland Green, of Canada, who unfurled his climbing wings to brilliant effect to take both the big mountain prizes, on G. Pilong and Titiwangsa -achievements which now put him in the white jersey of King of the Mountains with nearly double the points tally of previous incumbent Fortunato Baliani, of Italy, riding on the Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave squad.
With the climbing starting early, weaker riders were losing contact with the bunch within the first 15 kilometres but there was no real carnage and the long, flat run-in allowed the stragglers to rejoin the bunch before the finish where 129 of the 130 riders left in the race crossed the line together, the sole rider off the back being Malaysian national team rider Selamat Sharizan, who finished 8min 31sec in arrears.
A leading group of five did form after the second mountain but their lead never exceeded one-and-a-half minutes and they were swept up on the run-in.
Asia’s highlight of the day came at the penultimate Petronas hot spot sprint, at Jeli, where Japan’s Satoshe Hirosi took the prize from Spain’s German Nieto, Colchon Relax Fuenlabrada. Those positions were reversed at the final hot spot.
Iran’s Hossain Askari was a hero too, crossing the line on foot, his jersey and shorts ripped after rolling a tyre and crashing at the finish. Askari still holds the blue jersey as best placed Asian.
Having already demonstrated his climbing ability, Roland Green is sure to be a closely marked man during the coming days, especially by America’s Saturn team, which still has Australia’s Nathan O’Neill safely ensconced in the race leader’s yellow jersey with a 20-seconds advantage over Green. To give them a safety margin, Saturn also have Tom Danielson and Eric Wohlberg in third and fourth spaces respectively while the Canadian’s have Gordon Fraser and Seamus McGrath in eighth and ninth places, both with a 45-seconds deficit. Last year’s overall winner Hernan Dario Munoz, of Colombia-Selle Italia, is also handily placed, in sixth position at 38 seconds.
More used to riding off-road, Green is enjoying this rare stint of road riding: “I’d like to do more and probably will because there are quite a few gaps in the mountain bike season. However, it’s difficult for me to sign for a road sponsor because of my MTB commitments.
Mendonca Pagliarini (Brazil) Lampre, the 179.90km / 107.52 miles in 4hr 14min 13sec; 2, Graeme Brown (Australia) Ceramiche Panaria; 3, Stuart O’Grady (Australia) Credit Agricole; 4, Andrus Aug (Estonia) De Nardi-Colpack; 5, Miguel Perdiguero (Spain) Domina Vacanze; 6, Thomas Evans (Ireland) Telekom Malaysia, all at same time.
Best Asian rider on stage: Halan Maleki Mizan.
Best team on stage: De Nardi-Colpack.
Best Asian team on stage: Iran.
Nathan O’Neill (Australia) Saturn, 11hr 52min 56sec; 2, Roland Green (Canada), at 20sec; 3, Tom Danielson (USA), Saturn, at 24sec; 4, Eric Wohlberg (Canada) Saturn, at 27sec; 5, Sergiy Matveyev (Ukraine) Ceramiche Panaria, at 31sec; 6, Hernan Dario Munoz (Colombia), Colombia-Selle Italia.
Best Asian rider overall: Hossain Askari.
Best team overall: Saturn.
Best Asian team overall: Iran.
Points race: Mendonca Pagliarini (Brazil) Lampre, 45 points.
Mountains competition: Roland Green (Canada).